Joseph Rossano casts light on plight of global salmon and steelhead populations with School at Bellevue Arts Museum

January 15, 2019
Images: C.B. Bell

January 15, 2019
Contact: Emilie Smith
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School: The Joseph Rossano Salmon Project is on view at Bellevue Arts Museum April 12 – August 11, 2019


Bellevue, WA—School, an exhibition spearheaded and conceptualized by artist Joseph Rossano opens at Bellevue Arts Museum on April 12, 2019. Suspended in the Museum’s tallest gallery, the installation features a life-size school of more than 300 salmonid forms, hand-blown by concerned glassmakers from around the world, alongside first hand video accounts from renowned scientists, artists, and native peoples. The exhibition aims not only to cast light on the diminished state of global salmon and steelhead populations, but to reignite our imagination of what was, and what could be if we act to protect and conserve the beauty and majesty of the natural world.

Rossano's project is inspired by the Skagit River, the fourth largest outflow to the Pacific Ocean in the continental United States, and its dwindling run of salmon and steelhead. Once numbering in the millions, the Skagit’s salmon stocks now number barely in the tens of thousands. Whereas the river's steelhead population, which once numbered in the tens of thousands, now numbers only in the hundreds.

In the fall of 2018, Rossano gathered with artists, scientists, and a community of the concerned at the Museum of Glass to begin creating fish for the exhibition—kicking off a series of making events at venues including Schack Art Center and Hilltop Artists. Glassmakers across the globe were invited to create fish and send them to be silvered by Rossano before joining the exhibition at Bellevue Arts Museum. Once the exhibition concludes at BAM it will travel to other regions of the globe on a circular four year journey. On each stop of its tour, the exhibition’s narrative will expand to illuminate the particular issues faced by the region’s local fish and rivers before returning for exhibit to the place of its spawning, Museum of Glass, in 2022.

Before the school returns to its natal river, a population of makers will strive to exceed a symbolic 2,504 fish—the lowest return of Steelhead to the Skagit River to date—in order to demonstrate how a group of concerned individuals can work together to foment recovery. 

Joseph Rossano is a multidisciplinary artist who actively collaborates with prominent scientists and conservationists to create large-scale installations that explore the impact of humankind on the natural world. His work has been featured in exhibitions throughout the Seattle area and beyond, including Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA; Google, Palo Alto, CA; San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego, CA; Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, home and library of President Theodore Roosevelt, Oyster Bay, NY; The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, responsible for nine Nobel laureates, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, among others. He is based in Arlington, WA. 

School: The Joseph Rossano Salmon Project is organized by Bellevue Arts Museum and curated by Benedict Heywood with assistance from Museum of Glass and Trout Unlimited. Presentation is made possible in part by Sherwin-Williams and Edensaw Woods.

Bellevue Arts Museum provides a public forum for the community to contemplate, appreciate, and discuss visual culture. We work with audiences, artists, makers, and designers to understand our shared experience of the world.